Ex-officer McClelland takes stand in Washington County murder trial

Accused of role in death, robbery of woman, 92

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A former Mon Valley police officer accused of a role in the 2011 killing of Evelyn Stepko took the stand in his own defense Monday, testifying that he accepted money his father stole from the 92-year-old widow but never conspired to burglarize, and never once entered, her home.

David J. McClelland, 38, of Coal Center was defense attorney Josh Camson's sole witness on the fourth day of the jury trial before Judge John F. DiSalle at the Washington County Courthouse.

The prosecution also rested Monday. Attorneys plan to make closing statements today.

Mr. McClelland testified that he took money his father stole from Stepko, which he used for leisure, to pay bills and to purchase guns, among other things, because he was struggling financially. He testified that he first learned his father had been stealing from Stepko in June 2010.

He also testified that he initially omitted details when questioned by police after her death.

"I was charged with homicide. I was just scared," he said when asked by the prosecution why he first lied to investigators.

Prosecutors are trying to prove Mr. McClelland and his father planned to rob Stepko, which resulted in her death July 18, 2011. Washington County First Assistant District Attorney Michael Lucas has said because Mr. McClelland conspired with his father then he is, by law, also responsible, and a murder charge is appropriate.

Stepko suffered two stab wounds to the neck and other trauma. Police said she was found dead in her Coal Center home, near California Borough, on a dirt floor at the bottom of her basement stairs.

No physical evidence presented by the prosecution ties the younger Mr. McClelland to the crime scene.

Mr. McClelland, who worked as a part-time police officer in Washington Township and Monongahela, is charged with criminal homicide, dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities, receiving stolen property, aiding consummation of a crime and three counts of conspiracy.

David Allen McClelland, 59, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in Stepko's death last fall and was sentenced to the mandatory term of life in prison without parole, plus 21 to 42 years for additional charges of burglary, robbery and conspiracy. Diane McClelland, 50, his wife and the stepmother of the younger Mr. McClelland, was convicted March 1 of conspiracy and other charges.

Also on Monday, Pennsylvania State Police Cpl. John Tobin presented phone call records between Mr. McClelland and his father, including the day of Stepko's death.

In the minutes after California police received a call that day to check on Stepko, the men placed calls to one another five times, Cpl. Tobin testified.

After he heard of Stepko's death, Mr. McClelland testified that he did talk to his father and asked if he had anything to do with the death.

Later, after the final cross, Mr. Lucas said, "Are we to suspend our disbelief?" and then sat down.

The 12-member jury is expected to deliberate today after closing statements.

neigh_south - neigh_washington

Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1944 or on Twitter @borntolede.


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